Our Time Machine @ Tribeca Film Festival

Up close and personal in what is essentially a family story. Yang Son and S. Leo Chiang’s documentary tells the story of an adult son trying to connect with his father before dementia takes over. Time and memory are reoccuring themes. Though it takes place in the art world this is a human/family story which is highly relatable.

Famous Chinese artist Maleonn (Ma Liang) has made a living in the art world like his parents did before him. His mother was an actress and his father, Ma Ke Liang, was for a long time the director of the Shanghai Chinese Opera Theater. An artist who works within the theatre world using puppets and photo tableaus. The result is a nice mix of the real and surreal.

Now Ma Liang is wanting to work with his father before all his memories are gone. The coming together of different visions from different generations. Time vs. art. How one ravages the other. How art can help heal. Deep, poignant stuff.

The new project is a theatre piece involving father and son machine puppets. This is no simple project either. It involves, besides the family dynamic, a story of what it means to be an artist in China in the 20th century and today. There are denouncements of the Cultural Revolution along with presentday financial and social challenges. The result is something completely original.

Maleonn (Ma Liang’s professional name) wants to use his talent to honour his father. Using his skill as a photographer and installation artist, he comes up with Papa’s Time Machine. The theatre production will travel through time and space to tell its tale. What takes up a lot of time in the 80 minute documentary is the fixation on the technical aspects of the show and the creation process. We follow along with that until….boom!….there is a very emotional ending.

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